Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This week included a bunch of excellent wines, beginning with one of the better California Albariño’s I’ve tasted in some time. While this is definitely the California version of the grape (lacking the steely, nearly iodine nature it expresses in Rias Biaxas), it doesn’t leave much lacking in the pleasure department with its electric lemon brightness.
Speaking of lemon, you’ll enjoy the Meyer lemon curd of Kendrick Vineyards’ Chardonnay with its lovely texture and a price that’s pretty easy on the pocketbook.
Sticking with Kendric for the moment (Stewart Johnson’s generally Marin-focused wine label) I enjoyed all the wines I tasted this week, from the delicate Pinot Noir from the Petaluma Gap to the positively ethereal interpretation of Sangiovese from the Sierra Foothills—one of the better California Sangioveses I’ve had. The Reward Ranch it comes from may be quite aptly named.
I’ve got a couple of new releases from Dutton Goldfield, among which their Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir stands out as a stellar example of the form: zippy, bright, tangy, and all around mouthwateringly good. The Devil’s Gulch Pinot is no slouch either, but offers deeper, richer flavors than the Fox Den.
Before we move on from Dutton Goldfield, I should also note their Morelli Lane Zinfandel which will please most Zinfandel lovers greatly with its blackberry-licorice juiciness.
I’ve got two more reds to share this week. The first is the entry level Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Fattoria Valentina which is pretty darn good for the $15 you’ll pay to get yourself a bottle. Closer to home the Turnbull Reserve Cabernet offers a few pleasant surprises from Napa. Namely, (relatively) restrained alcohol, well integrated wood, and a price that while high for most people ($85) remains relatively humble for Napa.
Notes on all the wines follow below.
2019 Mettler Family Vineyards Albariño, Lodi, Central Valley, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest and honey. In the mouth, extremely zingy, bright lemon and lemonade flavors all but burst on the palate thanks to fantastic acidity. Notes of grapefruit linger in the finish. Excellent and refreshing—a lovely Californian interpretation of this variety. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2018 Kendric Vinyeards Chardonnay, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of pomelo pith and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of lemon curd, butterscotch and golden delicious apples have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Silky texture and nice long lemony finish. Nicely done. 13.7% alcohol. 130 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $28.
2017 Kendric Vinyeards Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Marin, California
Light ruby in the glass, almost approaching rosé color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, very pretty raspberry and herb flavors mix with a touch of toasty wood that lingers with notes of mulling spices in the finish. Excellent acidity. Perhaps more wood flavor than I’d prefer, but very tasty and delicate. 13.3% alcohol. 300 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.
2017 Dutton Goldfield “Devil’s Gulch Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Marin County, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry fruit is juicy with bright acidity and backed by a hint of earthy cedar and dried herbs that linger with a hint of bitterness in the finish. Excellent acidity and length. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $72. click to buy.
2017 Dutton Goldfield “Fox Den Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry jam. In the mouth, zippy cherry flavors mix with raspberry and redcurrant and an incredible citrus kick thanks to excellent acidity. Mouthwatering, with a faint hint of tannins lingering with sour cherry in the finish. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. 650 cases produced Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.
2016 Kendric Vinyeards “Reward Ranch” Sangiovese, Shenandoah Valley, Sierra Foothills, California
You might think this was a rosé from its light ruby color. In the glass, this wine smells of dried cherries and raisins with a hint of leather. In the mouth, the wine has great lift and a nice combination of citrus and cherry flavors mixed with leather and cedar. Delightfully varietally correct, and quite tasty. A very light-bodied interpretation of Sangiovese at only 13.7% alcohol. 165 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.
2017 Fattoria Valentina “La Valentina” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzi, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of licorice and black cherry with a hint of woodsmoke. In the mouth, smoky black cherry, mint and licorice flavors have a hint of alcoholic heat as the wine finishes, with gauzy tannins gently caressing the palate. Decent acidity but could use more. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.
2017 Dutton Goldfield “Morelli Lane Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright juicy blackberries. In the mouth, blackberry and blueberry fruit takes on an almost candied quality, but is saved from being confectionary thanks to excellent acidity and earthier notes of licorice and black pepper. There’s a faint heat on the finish along with a little citrus peel. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2017 Turnbull Wine Cellars “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Fleecy, muscular tannins grasp the fruit and put on the squeeze as the wine finishes with floral and cola notes. The wood is well integrated and the wine balanced, despite its richness. At 14.2% alcohol it is also on the leaner side of Napa Cabernet generally. 1050 cases made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.